Top UN mediator for Yemen steps down

The Mauritanian diplomat was trying to untangle what the UN calls "one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in the world." Despite attempts at mediating talks, the UN has struggled to sway the warring parties.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday said that the international body's top mediator for the conflict in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would step down in February.

"In this moment, his thoughts go first to the Yemeni people who are worn out by this conflict and are enduring one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in the world," said Dujarric.

Read more: Yemen's forgotten war: Locals tell their stories

"The special envoy remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people, until a successor is named."

Cheikh Ahmed, a Mauritanian diplomat, was appointed the UN's special envoy for Yemen in April 2015.

No end in sight

Despite numerous attempts, the UN has failed to sway warring parties to join talks in a bid to find a political solution to the conflict since it erupted in 2014.

Read more: Germany's ban on arms exports to Yemen conflict called into question

More than 15,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured since 2015, when Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign and the Houthis and their allies in a bid to prop up the internationally-recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The conflict has pushed the country to the brink of famine, and a cholera epidemic has affected nearly 1 million people. The UN has criticized the Saudi-led coalition for imposing a blockade and disrupting the work of humanitarian agencies.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

War: The 'root cause' of Yemen's disasters

The UN has identified conflict as the "root cause" of Yemen's crises. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels launched a campaign to capture the capital, Sanaa. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a deadly campaign against the rebels, one that has been widely criticized by human rights groups for its high civilian death toll.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Fighting keeps food from the famished

The conflict has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching large parts of the civilian population, resulting in 60 percent of the country's 28 million people being classified as "food insecure." At least 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, according to the UN World Food Program. UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to pressure warring parties to allow aid in.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Displacement: Converging crises

More than 2 million people have been displaced by conflict, including marginalized communities such as the "Muhammasheen," a minority tribe that originally migrated from Africa. Despite the civil war, many flee conflict in Somalia and head to Yemen, marking the convergence of two major migration crises in the Middle East nation. Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to UNHCR.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Cholera: A deadly epidemic

As of October 2017, the number of suspected cholera cases exceeded more than 750,000, and at least 2,135 people had died from the waterborne bacterial infection in Yemen in ten months, said the WHO. Although cholera can be easily treated, it can kill within hours when untreated. By October 2018, over 10,000 cases of cholera were being treated weekly.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Unsuspecting victims of the'war on terror'

In Yemen, violence goes beyond civil conflict: It is considered a strategic front in the war on terrorism. The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State." The US routinely uses drones to target al-Qaida leadership. However, civilians have often been killed in the operations.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Children's fate: Future marred by tragedy

In a country paralyzed by conflict, children are one of the most at-risk groups in Yemen. More than 11 million children require humanitarian aid, according to the UN humanitarian coordination agency. The country's education system is "on the brink of collapse," while children are dying of "preventable causes like malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections," the agency said in October.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Peace: An elusive future

Despite several attempts at UN-backed peace talks, the conflict continues to rage on. Saudi Arabia has vowed to continue supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On the other hand, Houthi rebels have demanded the formation of a unity government in order to move forward on a political solution. But neither side appears ready to compromise.

ls/msh (Reuters, dpa)